Honduras dropped by Washington, turns to Chavez

Honduras, a longtime ally of the United States in Central America, says a lack of international support to tackle chronic poverty has forced it to seek aid from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, an alliance of leftist leaders in Latin America headed by Chavez, a staunch U.S. foe. President Manuel Zelaya, a logging magnate seen as a moderate liberal, told Reuters that oil-rich Venezuela's offer to double international aid to the country, one of the poorest in Latin America, is unrivaled.

Chavez, a self-styled socialist who wants to build up opposition to U.S. influence in Latin America by offering oil and cash to poor countries, pledged $400 million a year in aid to tiny Honduras. Zelaya told a cheering crowd that Honduras would have energy security "for the next 100 years."

Honduras still hosts U.S. troops at one of its military bases. "Our decades-long relationship of dominance by the United States has not benefited all Hondurans," Zelaya said.



World Poverty more widespread than ever

The World Bank has revised its previous estimate and now says that 1.4 billion people live in poverty, based on a new poverty line of $1.25 per day.

This is substantially more than its earlier estimate of 985 million people living in poverty in 2004.

"This is pretty grim analysis coming from the World Bank," said Elizabeth Stuart, senior policy adviser at Oxfam. "The urgency to act has never been greater, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where half the population of the continent lives in extreme poverty, a figure that hasn't changed for over 25 years."

[Excerpt of an article by Steve Schifferes, BBC]


So what was Cheney's guy doing in Georgia before the War?

What was a top national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney doing in Georgia shortly before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's troops engaged in what became a disastrous fight with South Ossetian rebels -- and then Russian troops?

Yes, Joseph R. Wood, Cheney's deputy assistant for national security affairs, was in Georgia shortly before the war began. The vice-president’s office responded that it had nothing to do with a military operation that some have said suggests a renewal of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.

"U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict," Putin said. "They were acting in implementing those orders, doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."

[Based on articles in the L.A. Times and CNN]


Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “Wake Up America!”

Excerpts of a speech by Rep. Dennis Kucinich at Democratic National Convention:

“Wake up, America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo-con artists seized the economy and have added $4 trillion of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil, and twice what we paid for health care.”

“If there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold,” Kucinich said. “World records for violations of national and international laws … we can't afford another Republican administration. Wake up, America.

“This administration can tap our phones. They can't tap our creative spirit,” he said. “They can open our mail. They can't open economic opportunities. They can track our every move. They lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets. They skillfully played our post-9/11 fears and allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many.”


How the US government gets foreign governments to do what it wants

[An insighful excerpt of an article by Paul Craig Roberts, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration]

Back during the Nixon years, my Ph.D. dissertation chairman, Warren Nutter, was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. One day in his Pentagon office I asked him how the US government got foreign governments to do what the US wanted.

"Money," he replied.

"You mean foreign aid?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "we just buy the leaders with money."

Nutter did not mean merely third world potentates were bought. He meant the leaders of England, France, Germany, Italy, all the allies everywhere were bought and paid for.

The American-educated thug, Saakashkvili the president of Georgia, was installed by the US taxpayer funded National Endowment for Democracy, a neocon operation whose purpose is to ring Russia with US military bases, so that America can exert hegemony over Russia.


Cold War II: NATO using aid as "cover" for Black Sea build-up

A top Russian general accused NATO of using humanitarian aid deliveries to Georgia as "cover" for a build-up of naval forces in the Black Sea, AFP reports.

"Under the cover of needing to deliver humanitarian goods, NATO countries continue to boost their naval grouping," Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of general staff, told a news conference in Moscow. "In addition to the Spanish and German frigates that entered the Black Sea basin on August 21, yesterday a Polish frigate and a destroyer of the US navy passed the Bosphorous," he said.

"I don't think that this will help stabilize the situation in the region."

The exercises, which will include visits in Bulgaria and Romania, are due to continue to September 10.

Cold War II leading to WWIII?

To any who lived through the cold war, recent events along Russia’s western and southern borders are deeply ominous. Moscow initially spent the 17 years since the fall of the Soviet Union flirting with the West. It had been defeated and had good reason for disarming and putting out feelers to join NATO and the European Union.

Russia took part in such proto-capitalist entities as the G8. In the case of NATO and the EU it was arrogantly rebuffed, while its former Warsaw Pact allies were accepted.

Moscow was told it would be foolish to worry about encirclement.

There is no strategic justification for siting American missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is nothing but right-wing provocation. NATO’s welcome to Georgia and Ukraine, for no good reason but at risk of having to come to their aid, has served only to incite Georgia to realize that risk while also infuriating Moscow.

Russia is well able to respond recklessly to a snub without such encouragement, so why encourage it? Western strategy is dealing with a resurgent, rich and potent Russia.

[Excerpt of an article by Simon Jenkins, The Times]


Free Gaza protest successful

Israel agreed to allow two boats to dock in Gaza in what activists on board called a “historic occasion” that they vowed to turn into a “regular passage from Gaza to the outside world”.

“Everybody is ecstatic,” said Jeff Halper, from aboard one of the two vessels, the 20-metre Free Gaza and the 18m Liberty, that set sail for Gaza on Friday from Cyprus. “We broke the siege,” he said.

On Friday, the Israeli foreign ministry had issued a tough-worded statement warning the Free Gaza organisation, the group behind the action, that Israel would “make sure this provocation does not take place” and that “all options are being considered”. Reports from Gaza suggested the Israeli navy had deployed and could prevent the boats from reaching the strip.

But late yesterday, Israel appeared to backtrack and said the 46 activists, carrying humanitarian aid including hearing aids for Palestinian children, could disembark in Gaza, where they were greeted by hundreds of cheering Palestinians.

“I think it is a historic occasion,” Jeff Halper, a participating Israeli-Jewish activist, said just after the two boats entered Gazan waters. “I think it shows people power and I think it should give hope to people all over the world under oppression that there are people out there and you can achieve things.”

Israel has led an international boycott of Gaza since Hamas seized power in the territory in June 2007. Trade crossing between Gaza and Israel are closed to all but basic humanitarian supplies, causing widespread shortages of fuel, electricity and basic goods in Gaza and decimating the local economy.

Deal suggested for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by 2012

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have reached agreement on a proposal calling for a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by 2012. It needs approval from parliament on the Iraq side and Bush on the American side.

A joint Iraqi-U.S. committee would help define the duration and number of forces that would be needed and regularly assess the security situation on the ground.

Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, deputy foreign minister and head of the Iraqi negotiating team, said the proposal also says the last date for the presence of U.S. troops in cities and towns will be June 30, 2009.


Pentagon wasting trillions on "national defense"

America's economy is a war economy. Not a "manufacturing" economy. Not an "agricultural" economy. Nor a "service" economy. Not even a "consumer" economy.

Oh just admit it, we have a love affair with war. We love "America's Outrageous War Economy."

  • Why else are Americans so eager and willing to surrender 54% of their tax dollars to a war machine, which consumes 47% of the world's total military budgets?
  • Why are there more civilian mercenaries working for no-bid private war contractors than the total number of enlisted military in Iraq (180,000 to 160,000), at an added cost to taxpayers in excess of $200 billion and climbing daily?

We've lost our moral compass: Today war greed trumps morals. During the Revolutionary War our leaders risked their lives and fortunes; many lost both. Today it's the opposite.

[Excerpt of an article by Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch]


Putin vs Bush sparring match not even a draw

The illusion created by the western media, is that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are hanging on every word that emerges from the White House and gauging their Georgia strategy accordingly. Wrong. In fact, they're not even listening; they can't be bothered. Whatever Bush says is irrelevant. Who cares? Not Putin, that's for sure.

Moscow is working out the details of its so-called "withdrawal plans" with the United Nations, not Washington.

American's are convinced that their activities in the world still matter. That's because Americans are marinated in a culture of narcissism. In truth, "American exceptionalism" is just a misunderstanding of one's own basic insignificance.

And, no; there won't be a war with Russia; that's all just more handwringing speculation from liberal pundits. It's pure rubbish. The Bush administration will do what US policymakers always do when faced with a well-armed adversary; thrust their sabers into the air and rattle them ferociously while beating a hasty retreat.

Putin [has also] been sending anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran hoping it will dissuade Israel from doing something foolish, like blowing up what's left of the Middle East.

[With the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia], Bush, Cheney, Rice have been getting madder and more frustrated by the day. "Get out now or face the consequences", they growl. But, Putin, with obvious disdain, just shrugs his shoulders and says, "Make me".

[Excerpt of an article by Mike Whitney]


Where Cold War II is heading

Recognizing that the US had no intention of keeping any of the agreements Reagan had made with Gorbachev, Putin directed the Russian military budget to upgrading the Russian nuclear deterrent.

When the Russian army went into Georgia to rescue the Russians in South Ossetia from the destruction being inflicted upon them by Saakashvili, the Russians made it clear that if they were opposed by American troops with smart weapons, they would deal with the threat with tactical nuclear weapons.

The Americans were the first to announce preemptive nuclear attack as their permissible war doctrine. Now the Russians have announced the tactical use of nuclear weapons as their response to American smart weapons.

It is obvious that American foreign policy, with its goal of ringing Russia with US military bases, is leading directly to nuclear war. Every American needs to realize this fact. The US government's insane hegemonic foreign policy is a direct threat to life on the planet.

In order to keep the billions of dollars in profits flowing to its contributors in the US military-security complex, the Bush administration has rekindled the cold war. As American living standards decline and the prospects for university graduates deteriorate, "our" leaders in Washington commit us to a hundred years of war.

[Excerpt of an article by Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration]


'Free Gaza' boats set sail from Cyprus

Despite Israeli objections and attempts to intervene, Cyprian authorities have given the go-ahead for two boats filled with humanitarian supplies and 60 international activists to set sail for the Gaza Strip. The boats took off at midnight Thursday.

The 'Free Gaza' movement has been collecting money and supplies since last year to allow the unprecedented blockade-breaking trip to move forward. As the sixty activists gathered in Cyprus two weeks ago, the Israeli government issued statements indicating that the Israeli navy would shoot the boats if they tried to bring the humanitarian aid to Gaza. In addition, activists on the boat have reported receiving death threats for their work.

The aim of the group is to bring much-needed medicine, medical supplies and food to the civilian population of Gaza, which has been suffering under an Israeli-imposed siege for over a year.

Tom Nelson, the Portland, Oregon-based lawyer for the group, says they are simply trying to expose the truth about Israel's targeting of civilians in Gaza.



Tax Breaks for BIG OIL instead of OIL ALTERNATIVES

What if there was a vote to decide if $13.5 billion in tax breaks for oil companies should go into oil alternatives, like solar and wind? What would you want your Senator to do?

Well, as you might have guessed, there was such a vote. We needed 60 votes to prevail, and 59 of them were in. But John McCain ducked the vote. [U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote, December 13, 2007 “Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007"]

As a result, instead of powering millions of homes with clean energy and building next-generation solar technology, we're giving ExxonMobil and other companies billions in tax breaks at a time when they're already making record profits.

Check out a new MoveOn TV add


Who started Cold War II?

If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war.

Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow's superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis. U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians.

Should America admit Ukraine into NATO, Yalta, vacation resort of the czars, will be a NATO port and Sevastopol, traditional home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, will become a naval base for the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

As of 1991, the oil of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan belonged to Moscow. Can we not understand why Putin would smolder as avaricious Yankees built pipelines to siphon the oil and gas of the Caspian Basin through breakaway Georgia to the West?

And can we not understand how a Russian patriot like Vladimir Putin would be incensed by this U.S. encirclement after Russia shed its empire and sought our friendship?

If Cold War II is coming, who started it, if not us?

[Excerpt of an article by Patrick J. Buchanan, WND]


Counteract great Evil with great Good

Like everyone who lost a loved one on 9/11 Steve and Liz Alderman were devastated when their 25-year-old son, Peter, was killed in the World Trade Center attack. Like many, they chose to honor their son's memory by creating a foundation in his name to help victims of terrorism and mass violence round the world.

"Using the money for a good cause was the best revenge," Steve told me. "The only way for us to counteract great evil was with great good."

Today the Peter C. Alderman Foundation, in partnership with Harvard University, builds mental health clinics and provides local doctors with the tools they need to treat the emotional wounds of victims of terrorism and mass violence in places such as Cambodia, Uganda and Rwanda.

When I spoke to the Aldermans about their foundation, I was struck by the fact they, unlike most philanthropists who talk about the grants they have made, talk about the effect they have had. With an annual operating budget of $500,000 they have set out to help people across the globe. Liz and Steve found that, to have the impact they were seeking, they had to identify outstanding partners and find ways to leverage their giving.

The Aldermans represent the vanguard of philanthropy - individuals who have recognized that philanthropy is not defined by the act of giving but by the achievement of impact. They have discovered that the most emotionally satisfying philanthropy is a gift that has impact.

In Cambodia, where the legacy of the genocidal Pol Pot and the brutal Khmer Rouge still grips the populace, the Aldermans have proved they can treat traumatic depression. Importantly, they have shown they can achieve their mission cost effectively; the Cambodia clinic system provides services at a cost of $50 a head.

[Excerpt of an article by Sean Stannard-Stockton, The Financial Times]


Biblical Proportions Weather Sets Off Theologian Scientist Debate

In the beginning, God created heaven and Earth, and he saw that it was good. So begins the Book of Genesis, the dramatic opener of the Old Testament. But things went downhill from there.

God's wrath seems at work these days, as the heavens and Earth have unleashed earthquakes in China, a cyclone in Burma, killer tornadoes and record floods across the U.S. and even a plague of locusts (cicadas) in New England.

"We're just kind of at God's mercy right now, so hopefully people that never prayed before this, it might be a good time to start," Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller said this week as record floods hit the Midwest.

By the final Book of Revelation in the New Testament, the Earth suffers "Seven Plagues" -- from disease to "intense heat" and drought, then finally a shower of deadly hailstones. And then comes the Apocalypse, the final judgment of man and destruction of the world by fire. The Apocalypse is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but end-of-the-world stories are also woven through some Hindu and Islamic beliefs.

Many reputable scholars do lend some credence to the notion that the world is in for some kind of disaster, be it meteorological, ecological or geopolitical.

ABC News will air a dramatic two-hour broadcast in September, Earth 2100, bringing the greatest minds across the globe together to tell us what we must do to survive the next century. And what may happen if we don't.

[ABC News]


The Real Story on South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia

There are no military installations in the city of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia. In fact, there are no military targets at all. It is an industrial center consisting of lumber mills, manufacturing plants and residential areas. It is also the home to 30,000 South Ossetians.

When Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered the city to be bombed by warplanes and shelled by heavy artillery last August 8th, he knew that he would be killing hundreds of civilians in their homes and neighborhoods. But he ordered the bombing anyway.

The Georgian army entered the city unopposed. Most of the townspeople had already fled across the border into Russia or hid in their basements while the tanks and armored vehicles rumbled bye firing at anything that moved.

In less than 24 hours, the Russian army was deployed to the war zone where it chased the Georgian army away without a fight. Journalist Michael Binyon put it like this, "The attack was short, sharp and deadly---enough to send the Georgians fleeing in humiliating panic." Indeed, the Georgians left in such haste that many of their weapons were left behind. It was a complete rout; another black-eye for the US and Israeli advisers who trained the clatter of thugs they call the Georgian army. Vendors on the streets of Tskhinvali will be hawking weapons that were left behind with a mocking sign: "Georgia Army M-16; Never used, dropped once."

See YouTube

[Excerpt of article by Mike Whitney, Internet commentator]


U.S. Govt working behind the scenes with Georgia on their mind

Back in mid-April, Senator John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for a phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

As a private lobbyist trying to influence lawmakers and Bush administration staffers, McCain’s advisor Randy Scheunemann, at times relied on his access to McCain in his work for foreign clients on Capitol Hill. The contacts often focused on Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and on legislative proposals, including a measure co-sponsored by McCain that supported Georgia's position on South Ossetia, one of the Georgian regions taken over by Russia this past weekend.

The Bush Administration's ambition to extend NATO into the Caucasus mountains is dead, which will please the French, the Germans and other NATO members who always found it bizarre and wilfully provocative.

Russians, who were the target of the provocation, are quietly pleased with the speed and effectiveness of their Government's response under Putin.


Humanitarian relief = U.S. military forces in Georgia

Russia issued a rebuke to President Bush on Thursday over the conflict in neighboring Georgia, refusing an immediate withdrawal of its troops there.

We know that U.S. and Israel has been instrumental in training the Georgia troops, as recently confirmed by the President and a government minister.

Now President Bush, flanked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, announced a military buildup in Georgia, casting it as a “humanitarian relief” operation.

Even as he spoke of a humanitarian mission, Bush made clear the military dimensions of the measures he was announcing. He said he was directing Pentagon chief Gates to lead the mission, which would be “headed by the United States military.” He announced that a C-17 military aircraft was already on its way to Georgia and that “in the days ahead we will use US aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.”

This seems to be an injection of US military and naval forces into Georgia of indeterminate scope and duration, raising the possibility of a direct military clash between the United States and Russia?

The Stars and Stripes meanwhile confirms that U.S. personnel responsible for training members of the Georgian military remain stationed inside the volatile country. And in addition to the trainers, soldiers from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, are also involved.

The non-American view of the Russian-Georgian Clash

The three-day war in South Ossetia is settled, and the Georgians have lost. President Mikhail Saakashvili has handed Russia a major victory, and Georgia's hopes of joining NATO are gone.

It was Georgia that started this war. The chronology tells it all. Skirmishes between Georgian troops and South Ossetian militia were more frequent than usual over the past several months. On the afternoon of August 7, Georgia President Saakashvili offered the separatist South Ossetian Government "an immediate ceasefire and the immediate beginning of talks," promising that "full autonomy" was on the table.

The same evening, however, he ordered a general offensive. Through all of Thursday night and Friday morning, Georgian artillery shells and rockets rained down on South Ossetia's capital, while Georgian infantry and tanks encircled it. Russian journalists reported that 70 per cent of the city was destroyed, and by Friday afternoon it was in Georgian hands.

Saakashvili assumed that the world's attention would be distracted by the opening of the Olympics, and that the Russian reaction would be slow because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was off in Beijing.

But all of his calculations were wrong. There was no delay in the Russian response.

[Excerpt of an article by Gwynne Dyer, The New Zealand Herald]


The non-inheritance movement is going global

Following on the footsteps of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the richest man in Australia has now promised to give away his fortune to charity. Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the iron-ore magnate behind Fortescue Metals, this week said he plans to donate nearly all of his $8 billion fortune before he dies.

“I don’t aspire to great wealth and I don’t admire it and I don’t intend to leave this earth as a rich man,” Mr. Forrest told reporters.

“I have a philosophy [about wealth] and that is that it doesn’t do much for you,” he said.
“I know very wealthy people who have survived and become good guys despite their wealth, but I also know many others around the world who haven’t.”

At a time when so much of the world’s commodity wealth–oil, metals, etc.–is getting dumped into yachts, planes and megamansions, it is encouraging to see that some of the money is going toward helping the poor.

If Mr. Forrest follows through on his promise, perhaps he could become the Bill Gates of Down Under–inspiring an entire new generation of philanthropists who force their children to actually work for a living.

[The Wall Street Journal]


Two sides to the story of Russia’s advance into Georgia: The West

Everyone from Dick Cheney on down, including President Bush, is up in arms about Russia pulling in its troops to South Ossetia, and now rolling its tanks deeper into Georgia despite a ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Sarkozy.

Vice President Dick Cheney personally called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to express U.S. solidarity in the conflict with Russia. Cheney’s office said, "The vice president expressed the United States' solidarity with the Georgian people and their democratically elected government in the face of this threat to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Others like Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing in The Washington Post, conclude:

“This war did not begin because of a miscalculation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. It is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time.

“The man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the (20th) century’ has re-established a virtual czarist rule in Russia and is trying to restore the country to its once-dominant role in Eurasia and the world. Armed with wealth from oil and gas; holding a near-monopoly over the energy supply to Europe; with a million soldiers, thousands of nuclear warheads and the world's third-largest military budget, Vladimir Putin believes that now is the time to make his move.”


Two sides to the story of Russia’s advance into Georgia: The East

Mikhail Gorbachev sees the Russian - Georgia conflict very differently, also writing in The Washington Post:

“The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. … To accuse it of aggression against ‘small, defenseless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.

“Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a "blitzkrieg" in South Ossetia.

“In other words, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was expecting unconditional support from the West. … Now that the Georgian military assault has been routed, both the Georgian government and its supporters should rethink their position.”

Contractors in Iraq have made billions

The United States has paid $85 billion to contractors in the Iraq theater for work ranging from food service to guarding diplomats, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report was prepared by the Congressional Budget Office, and noted that spending for contractors account for about 20 percent of spending for operations in Iraq.

There are currently at least 190,000 contract employees working in the Iraq theater, with the ratio at about one contractor for every U.S. service member, according to the report.

U.S. contractors have been investigated in connection to the shooting deaths of Iraqis and in the accidental electrocution deaths of U.S. troops.

[Excerpt of article by Kimberley Hefling, Associated Press]


How much of the Darfur story is overblown?

No one, not even the government of Sudan, questions that there is a civil war in Darfur, or that it has caused an immense number of refugees. Even the government admits that nearly a million people have left for camps outside Darfur's main towns to escape marauding paramilitary groups. That is why the government of Sudan imposed a state of emergency in 1999.

But our media have taken this complex picture and projected on to it a simple morality tale of ethnic cleansing and genocide. They gloss over the fact that the Janjaweed militia come from the same ethnic group and religion as the people they are allegedly persecuting - everyone in Darfur is black, African, Arabic-speaking and Muslim.

The Sudanese defense minister condemned the Janjaweed as "bandits" in a speech to the country's parliament in March. On July 19, moreover, a court in Khartoum sentenced six Janjaweed soldiers to horrible punishments, including the amputation of their hands and legs.

It is far from clear that the sudden media attention devoted to Sudan has been provoked by any real escalation of the crisis -- a peace agreement was signed with the rebels in April, and it is holding. The Sudanese government says that the death toll in Darfur, since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, is not greater than 1,200 on all sides. Why is such attention devoted to Sudan when, in neighboring Congo, the death rate from the war there is estimated to be some 2 or 3 million, a tragedy equaled only by the silence with which it is treated in our media?

The prospect of sending troops into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. There are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. We ought, therefore, to treat with scepticism the US Congress declaration of genocide in the region.

[Excerpt of article by John Laughland, The Guardian]


Russia sends a message through "disproportionate" force on Georgia

Both Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine are seeking to join the NATO alliance. Russia appears to be using the Georgia crisis in Ossetia to ram home to the United States and its allies that it will not accept further expansion of NATO.

The Russian invasion "sends a message to all of the countries in the former Soviet space that Russia is resurgent and is willing to flex its muscles," said David Philips, an expert with the Atlantic Council.

A national security official at the White House said the United States has "made it clear to the Russians that if the disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side continues, that this will have a significant long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

State-run media quoted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as defending Russia's intervention as "totally legitimate". Putin's comments reflect Russia's longstanding anger over NATO expansion, U.S. support for the admission of Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance, and the Bush administration's plan to build missile defense facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Russia is a major supplier of natural gas to Europe - its top eight customers are all NATO members, according the U.S. Energy Department - and has already shown that it is prepared to reduce supplies over disagreements.

[McClatchy Newspapers]


Analysts foresee 'new world energy order'

A leading global energy monitor fears there may not be enough oil out there to slake the world's thirst -- and is preparing a landmark forecast that could reverberate through the global economy even as major companies announce fuel-related cutbacks. Less oil would mean even higher prices for everything from gasoline to food.

"We are entering a new world energy order," chief economist Fatih Birol of The International Energy Agency (IEA) told The Associated Press. Market analysts call the Paris-based IEA the world's most reliable independent source of oil information and welcomed its decision to undertake a deep study of oil supplies. Birol said the IEA study, whose results will be released in November, was prompted by concern about the volatility of world oil markets and uncertainty about supply levels.

Birol said one of the key shifts coming up is that the world will become increasingly reliant on national oil companies instead of multinational ones. "Up to now, we have seen that the international oil companies were responsible for bringing a big chunk of the oil to the markets. Now, in many cases, since existing reserves are declining, a big part of oil will need to come from national oil companies. And they have their own conditions, their own context."

Birol noted that, "Both on the demand side and supply side, we have new actors who change the rules of the game." He said most demand now and in the coming decades will come from China, India and the Middle East. That is a stark shift from past decades, when the U.S. and Europe were demand-drivers.

[Associated Press]


Billionaire Taiwanese to Give 90% of Wealth to Charity

Terry Gou, Taiwan's third-wealthiest businessman and chairman of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., has pledged to donate 90 percent of his wealth to charity, the billionaire's aide said.

The tycoon, estimated by Forbes magazine with $6 billion of wealth, announced his plan at a banquet to celebrate his engagement to Delia Tseng, the United Daily News reported. Gou's special assistant and Hon Hai spokesman Edmund Ding confirmed the plan, saying the billionaire has consistently given to charity and that there was no start date to his latest cause.

Gou, 57, joins Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and other industrial philanthropists who've pledged most of their fortunes to charities. Buffett in June 2006 said he would give about 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to charity, mostly to a foundation started by his close friend Gates.

[Excerpt of an article by Janet Ong, Bloomberg.com]


China learning to accept philanthropy

Officials in China's devastated Sichuan province are getting a crash course in a novel concept: accepting philanthropy. Since the May 12 earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people and destroyed homes across the region, millions may have been lost because officials were leery of taking money from nongovernmental organizations and private donors.

The problem isn't corruption or even plain incompetence. All public life in China was state-controlled until recently (anything sensitive still is), and many not-for-profit groups are barely legal even now. Local officials can't help being nervous about working with them; in other parts of the world NGOs have been criticized as Trojan horses for the West because of their efforts to open up societies and demand individual rights.

Qiu Tian, NGO project manager, says the head of one town where seven schools collapsed turned away an NGO offering psychological counseling to pupils; he worried about "involving strangers working in his area" and lacked the expertise to conduct background checks, she says. Such caution tends to be strongest among lower-level officials in outlying townships.

[Excerpt of an article by Mary Hennock, Newsweek]


India pledges $450m aid package to Afghanistan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a $450-million new aid package to Afghanistan. Dr Singh asserted that New Delhi’s initiative in the reconstruction and development of the war-torn country was part of a larger effort to help the Afghan people in forging a pluralistic and democratic society.

India’s decision to allocate an additional amount of $450 million over and above the existing $750 million to meet the requirements of its ongoing and forthcoming projects in Afghanistan has come on the expected lines.

President Karzai said, ‘It is a moral responsibility as human beings to protect the lives of our women and children, and to prevent the loss of life caused by terrorism by defeating terrorism and by eliminating it completely, and thereby bringing security to our peoples and the world at large.’

[Khaleej Times]


Rekindling the Cold War with Russia

Monday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for Russia to regain its influential position in former Cold War ally Cuba. The statement comes amid persistent speculation about whether Russia is seeking a military presence in a country just 90 miles (150 kilometers) from the United States in response to U.S. plans to place missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Veteran correspondent Charley Reese expresses his concern thus:

Hopefully, the next U.S. president, whoever he is, will have sense enough to realize that an anti-missile site in Eastern Europe is not worth rekindling the Cold War with Russia.

Though the press pays little attention to it, the Bush administration has already practically wrecked relations with Russia by insisting on adding the Eastern European countries to NATO and siting anti-missile system there. The Russians are right that it represents a threat to their security.

President Bush's lame excuse is that the system is designed to protect Europe from Iranian missiles. I can't think of any reason whatsoever for Iran to attack Europe, and I'm sure the Iranians can't, either. Iran hasn't attacked anybody for more than 100 years. They would have absolutely nothing to gain by firing a few missiles at Europe. It doesn't make any sense at all.

[Excerpt of an article by Charley Reese, Anti-War]


Russia scores one in the Great Game over Caspian Energy Rights

The great game over Caspian energy has taken a dramatic turn. The United States has suffered a huge defeat in the race for Caspian gas.

Gazprom, Russia's energy leviathan, signed two major agreements outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. The first one elaborates the price formation principles that will be guiding the Russian gas purchase during the next 20-year period. The second agreement is a unique one, making Gazprom the donor for local Turkmen energy projects. In essence, the two agreements ensure that Russia will keep control over Turkmen gas exports.

From all appearance, Gazprom, which was headed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for eight years from 2000 to May 2008, has taken an audacious initiative. The Kremlin has a grand strategy. China Daily commented, "It seems that a shift of Russia's energy export policy is under way. Russia might turn its eyes from the Western countries to the Asia-Pacific region ... The cooperation in the energy sector is an issue of great significance for Sino-Russian relations ... the political and geographic closeness of the two countries would put their energy cooperation under a safe umbrella and make it a win-win deal. China-Russia ties are at their best times ... The two sides settled their lingering border disputes, held joint military exercises, and enjoyed rapidly increasing bilateral trade."

Suffice it to say that Gazprom's new stature as the sole buyer of Turkmen gas strengthens Russia's hands in setting the price in the world gas (and oil) market. Besides, Russia is taking a renewed interest in the idea of a "gas cartel". Medvedev referred to the idea during the visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow.

There must be deep frustration in Washington. In sum, Russia has greatly strengthened its standing as the principal gas supplier to Europe. Moreover, Russian oil and gas companies are now spreading their wings into Latin America, which has been the US's traditional backyard.

[Excerpt of an article by Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, as published in the Asia Times]


The new, new coming World Order

You have to hand it to the economics team at Goldman Sachs. It was they who came up with the concept that four countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China –were going to catch up with and then overtake the big economies of the developed world.

More recently, they added the "Next 11": middle-sized developing countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico that will also grow fast enough to overtake their old-rich counterparts in the next generation.

Back in 2006, Goldman Sachs predicted the Chinese economy would surpass that of the United States in the early 2040s, with the Indian economy not far behind.

But now the Goldman Sachs team have put out a new set of forecasts. The Chinese economy, they predict, will overtake the US economy in about 2025, and will be twice as big by 2050. India's economy by 2050 will still be slightly smaller than that of the US, but the economies of Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and Mexico will all be bigger than that of the next-largest old-rich country, Britain.

The changes in the pecking order are equally dramatic further down. Turkey's economy in 2050 will be bigger than Japan's, France's or Germany's, and both Nigeria and the Philippines will have larger economies than Canada and Italy.

[Excerpt of an article by Gwynne Dyer, The Scotsman]


True Reason for Iraq War: a Club Med for corporate interests

For five years the Bush administration has played wack-a-mole with the American people as to why we are in Iraq, with a new justification quickly spawning after the hollow core of the prior position was exposed. WMD's was followed by fighting Al Qaeda and ultimately bringing democracy to the Middle East. [Now] the true reason over a million Americans have been put in harm's way.

All this was laid bare this month as the Iraqi government went on the offensive in its call for U.S. withdrawal by 2010. The Iraqi's rejected [the Bush Administration’s response, to in essence] be an American colony, as "arrogant" and an affront to their sovereignty.

From the start of the occupation, the Bush administration has shown little regard for Iraqi sovereignty and international legal prohibitions against making significant changes to the legal and political institutions of an occupied country. Instead, the administration pursued what, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz characterized as "an even more radical form of shock therapy than pursued in the former Soviet world," as it completely reshaped Iraq's legal and economic regime to turn it into a Club Med for corporate interests.

The State Department recently assisted the Big 5 oil companies in winning rights to develop some of Iraq's largest oilfields. Soon they will join Halliburton and others who have made billions off the war while protected by our troops.

The current spat over the SoF Agreement once again raises the question of why we fought this war to begin with. After five years of war at a cost of approximately $539 billion, 90,000 Iraqi lives, over 35,000 American soldiers wounded or killed, we now know what we suspected all along -- that Operation Iraqi Freedom was never about liberating the people of Iraq but instead about liberating its assets for foreign exploitation.

[Excerpt of an article by Bennet Kelley, Huffington Post]